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Former Kansas and Wisconsin lineman Brad Thorson comes out as gay

Brad Thorson
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Brad Thorson of the Arizona Cardinals poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)

Brad Thorson, an offensive lineman who played for Wisconsin and Kansas from 2006-2010, came out publicly as gay on his personal blog on July 4.

In his blog post, Thorson said that he was inspired by SEC Player of the Year and recent NFL draftee Michael Sam coming out in February. Thorson also mentioned the strength of gay men like NBA player Jason Collins and Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims, who played college football at Bloomsburg, for helping him come out publicly.

If not for the strength of athletes like Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and Brian Sims, I would likely still be struggling with my own cognitive dissonance. Each of their stories reinforced the truth that there is nothing wrong with being a competitive athlete and gay. Just as their stories helped me come to understand and accept myself, I've gotten to a point in my life where I hope to help someone else to understand his or her identity as a gay athlete.

In an interview with the Topeka Captial-Journal, Thorson, 26, said he put off the decision to publish the blog post for months. He is the first former Kansas football player to announce that he is a homosexual.

“I was insanely nervous for potential backlash or something like that. But really after I hit send, I just remembered the great place I’m in and that nothing’s changed a minute before and a minute after. It became easy to do,” Thorson said. “After that was over, I was like, ‘Oh, wow. This momentous moment in my life is not that big of a deal anymore.”

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Quarterback Todd Reesing #5 of the Kansas Jayhawks is congratulated by Brad Thorson #76 after scoring a touchdown against the Missouri Tigers on Novem...

Quarterback Todd Reesing #5 of the Kansas Jayhawks is congratulated by Brad Thorson #76 after scoring a touchdown …

After transferring from the University of Wisconsin, Thorson started all 24 games in his final two seasons with the Jayhawks. He said the response from former teammates and others has been positive.

“It’s honestly the opposite of what I expected. I expected a lot of silence, but it’s been the exact opposite. The fact that I can’t even recall all the people today alone who have just sent congratulation-type messages is overwhelming,” Thorson said.

After graduating from Kansas, Thorson had a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals before his football career ended. He now works for an advertising startup company in San Francisco.

He told the Capital-Journal that he was not entirely sure about his sexuality while playing collegiately.

“Not until football came to a halt did I have the impetus to look at my life and say, ‘Who am I? Who do I want to be?’” Thorson said.

Thorson came out to his family 18 months ago and said he has seen a positive change in them in the months since. He posted an email of support that he received from his father on social media Sunday.

Thorson says he hopes his decision to come out could help someone who is in a similar situation, like guys like Sam, Collins and Sims did for him.

“It’s just been a journey,” Thorson said. “I got to a point where I started to tell myself, ‘I don’t need to do this. I don’t owe anybody anything.’ And I started to meet a lot of people involved in the LGBTQ movement. And one of the common things that I kept hearing myself say is that the biggest part for me is that I never felt like I had the right role models or people to look up to. If I could have just seen somebody else be like me, it would have helped. That would have made all the difference.”

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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